What is sovereignty?
From time immemorial. How many times have we heard that phrase in relation to the rights of sovereignty exercised by Indian tribes, particularly the Cherokee Nation. But not many people, politicians and lawyers included, really know what that means.
What this confusion boils down to is a lack of knowledge of the origin of sovereignty and an allowance by the people of improper usage and abuse by a rogue government.
The government of a nation is not, in and of itself, sovereign. Sovereignty is a delegation from the people to the government of the right to govern. It is permission, either written or understood, that a government has some right to represent the people in matters of state and foreign affairs.
This is usually accomplished in one of two ways. First, it can be taken from the people, as in the case of dictatorships and other forms of totalitarian regimes. The second is for a valid delegation from the people to a form of government, usually through an election, which then, by consent, exercises sovereignty.
In the absence of a legitimate government, ALL SOVEREIGNTY RESTS WITH THE PEOPLE. As an example, when the Cherokee Nation existed east of the Mississippi River, intact and unmolested by foreign authority, the powers of sovereignty were exercised at various levels by the people or their designated leadership, priests, chiefs and other headmen.
When that form of government became burdensome and unresponsive to the needs of the people, another form of government was organized whereby sovereignty was exercised through a centralized government. But prior to such an event occurring, it was necessary for there to be an interim period where no government existed at all. This was the case during the early 1700's, as the Cherokee people neither wanted, nor understood the concept of centralization.
As the appointed chief, then called an Emperor, became more normalized and acceptable, sovereignty was extended to the position from the people. Prior to that, it was not uncommon for the people to simply ignore the Emperor and his decisions. Sovereignty continued to rest with the people, in spite of what appeared to be an operating central government.
When this form of government became too autocratic and unresponsive to the people's needs, another period of nongovernment took place. During this time, the people met and withdrew the sovereignty they had extended to the Emperor, and re delegated it to an elected Principal Chief. This was accomplished through a constitution passed in 1827.
During those terrible times for the Cherokees, many moved west and organized their own government. They had a primitive government based on a Principal Chief and his assistants. These Cherokees, commonly called Old Settlers, had retained sovereignty within themselves when they left the east and then delegated it to their government upon arrival in the west.
When the Cherokee Nation was forcibly removed from the Eastern homeland, the old government of the Cherokee Nation ceased to exist. All that remained were "leaders." John Ross was no longer Principal Chief and the council no longer had legislative authority. The people followed Ross because of his charismatic leadership, not because they were required to by law.
The sovereignty of the Cherokee Nation, which had been delegated to the government in 1827 through a constitution, was now back in the hands of its rightful owners, the masses of Cherokee refugees. And by the same token, when the larger body of Eastern Cherokee emigrants arrived in the western territory, the
Old Settlers lost their government as well. In the scheme of things, a representative government, elected by a minority, cannot exist in the face of majority opposition In this way, no government existed in the Cherokee Nation west. All of the sovereignty which had been carefully delegated to both governments had unceremoniously reverted to its original owners, the Cherokee people.
Understanding this phenomenon, the leaders of the Cherokee people, both Old Settlers and emigrants, created a new government. This new government was given its credentials through the adoption of the 1839 Constitution. Thus, the restored sovereignty of the Cherokee people was once again delegated to a centralized government which could and would lead the people for nearly a century.
Now, we have a situation where no legitimate government exists for the Cherokee people. One would think that sovereignty, the hallmark of the people's right to govern themselves, has reverted into the hands of its rightful owners, the Cherokee people. This is not the case.
Remembering that in 1839, the Cherokee people delegated the right to govern from themselves to a legitimate government. And that delegation has never been rescinded. The institutions of government have remained vacant for many years. The exercise of sovereignty by any form of legitimate government has been lacking. Meanwhile, a usurper government has arisen.
This usurper government, missing the key ingredients of sovereignty, can do nothing but pretend to govern, which all the while, being supported and succored by foreign governments bent on destroying the Cherokee Nation and oppressing the Cherokee people.